In Part 1 of this post, I discussed how disappointment in others is typically the underlying cause of anger. When someone is unable to acknowledge and accept that disappointment is a part of life, frequently the feelings are stuffed and anger is what is expressed (or not).
I and others believe that if we were to explore the feeling of disappointment further, we would find fear of and in many cases actual emotionally scarring experiences of abandonment.
Let me explain.
From birth we depend upon our primary caregivers to make us feel safe. They are supposed to respond to our basic needs, including our emotional ones.
Disappointment is inevitable. It is impossible to respond perfectly 100% of the time. So if you think of it, disappointment in others is built into the human psyche and into all human relationships.
What gets tricky is not that there will be disappointment but its extent and depth. From birth onward, chronic and painful failure to have ones basic needs met prevents a person from developing the concomitant ability to cope with that disappointment. The result is a person filled with fear (and interestingly, rage). One develops the ability to cope with disappointment through a process of tolerance and the subsequent understanding that despite being disappointed, one can survive.
Some of the fallout of not having important needs met is that a person develops a low tolerance for frustration and/or the attitude that others never come through. Self-reliance becomes the only option. Interestingly, there can be a tendency to chose unreliable others when cooperation is required so that this view is reinforced again and again.
In the case of the client I discussed in Part 1 of this post, her father moved out of the family home when she was 5. The mother never really recovered and became depressed, controlling and defeated. The father started a new family and was not involved in my client’s life in a meaningful way. So here you have a physical abandonment on the part of the father and an emotional abandonment by both of them.
The result was someone who felt frequent rage because of the limitations and shortcomings of others (as well as rage at herself). And, over time, became seriously depressed.
So what are some concrete solutions that will help break the cycle of Fear of Abandonment > Disappointment > Anger?
1. Practice Self-Awareness (Mindfulness): The more you understand yourself, the better able you are to manage your feelings. Knowing your triggers and your typical initial responses to those triggers, you can learn eventually learn to think before you act and minimize over-reactions.
2. Develop Self-Compassion: Disappointment in others in almost always coupled with disappointment in oneself. Being able to accept less than perfect performance in yourself can go a long way toward the ability to tolerate when others don’t meet your needs (and wants).
3. Learn to Breathe: This frequently mentioned solution to many issues really does work. If our brains are deprived of oxygen and we are working from our “mammalian” and “reptilian” brains rather than our “evolved” brains where rational thought lives, we are not going to be able to think or act clearly or in our best interest.
4. Sign Up for Anger Management Skills Training: Either individually or in a group, this typically short-term work helps people do all of the above. Research shows that treatment really works and has lasting benefits, including helping with anxiety, depression and relationships.
Anger appropriately expressed is necessary for our survival and can be a motivating factor in our lives. Rage and aggression are usually unrewarding, unproductive and destructive. It can help to feel you have a choice.